I was honored and humbled to be in the presence of holy man Thich Nhat Hahn today at MacArthur Park in a very Hispanic neighborhood in Los Angeles.
Tha^y, (teacher) as he is known, is a Buddhist monk who was active during the Vietnam War years bringing peace and reconciliation to the countries of North and South Vietnam. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr. He walks with an aura of peace and acceptance radiating from him.
Every day we do things, we are things that have to do with peace. If we are aware of our life..., our way of looking at things, we will know how to make peace right in the moment, we are alive. Thich Nhat Hahn.
In a speech I delivered at the Riverside Church in NYC on the one year anniversary of Casey's death, which was also the 37th anniversary of MLK, Jr's death, I said: We must all do one thing for peace each day. I now know that is not enough. We must live peace and embody peace if we want peace on earth. Our entire lives must be for peace. Not just one activity a day.
Every step is peace.
That was the theme for today's walk in Mac Arthur Park. Tha^y reminded us to be in the "present" and take every step in peace and know that we are walking on the earth in peace. He lovingly admonished the hundreds of people who came to hear his witness to do everything in peace: eat, walk, talk, breathe, sleep, work, play, etc. No yelling, no angry words, no harsh statements. This admonishment struck me to the bone because I have been so "strident" in my criticism of the Bushies in their quest for power, greed, and destruction. There must be a better way now if we truly want our country to live in eternal peace and not eternal war.
I have arrived. I am home.
This was the first sign we passed as we started on our walk. Tha^y told us we should say those phrases with every other step. I have arrived. Every second we live is a new arriving in the present. I see so much conflict and struggle in our world because we don't live in this second. We are worried about the next second and mourning the past second. Camp Casey taught me to live each moment in the arrival moment. One of the reasons I have been able to remain so calm in the face of an onslaught of troubles and evil is because I realized in Camp Casey that I could not struggle against the current of my life and change my destiny any more than I could bring my son back from the land of the dead. Each second of each day is our precious arrival and we should honor each moment. Another holy man, Jesus Christ said: Why worry about tomorrow? Today has enough worries of its own.
I am home.
I met a new friend today named Jewel whose son was a medic on the front lines in Iraq and has tried to commit suicide three times since he returned from the desert of pain. The distraught Mother who is beside herself with worry said if something isn't done about it and if her boy doesn't get help, he is dying. His superiors will not allow him to be diagnosed for PTSD so he can't get the treatment he so desperately needs. Jewel is Buddhist and I told her: "You realize your son died in Iraq." She replied to me: "We have all died because of this war." She is right. On April 04, 2004, Cindy Sheehan died, but Cindy Sheehan was born. The dead Cindy Sheehan lived for her home and family. She kept a neat and tidy house, often cooked meals, did everyone's laundry, entertained friends, laughed more than she cried, worked at various jobs, and her family meant the entire world to her. She lived an insulated life filled with Thanksgivings and Christmases and Birthdays and other celebrations. The Cindy who was born on 04/04/04 still adores her family above all things but now knows that the human family is worth struggling for too. The lifelong cause of peace with justice is worth leaving her home (which is just another shell to keep your soul's shell warm and dry) and travel around from home to home and being there and being home wherever she is. I pray for Jewel and especially for her son that he realizes that he died in Iraq but he can be a much better "he" than left his loving home and mother. Unfortunately, and tragically, Jewel and her son's story is not uncommon.
In order to rally people, governments need enemies. They want us to be afraid, to hate, so we will rally behind them. And if they do not have a real enemy, they will invent one in order to mobilize us. Thich Nhat Hahn
While looking up sayings by my new friend, I came upon the above. This has been one of my feelings and themes for months. I know during the terrible war that Tha^y fought against the enemy was "Communism." Now in this evil war that we are struggling against the enemy is "Terrorism." I just saw a poll that only 13 percent of Americans fear a terrorist attack. The war machine and the people who serve it in our government are getting a little afraid themselves of not being able to keep the industrial military complex rolling in the bloody dough, so George and friends have come up with a new enemy whose atrocities also can't be contained to borders and that doesn't wear a national uniform: The Bird Flu. What kind of person who doesn't bow before the warmongers and war profiteers calls the military as his first plan of action when a health threat is supposedly brewing? Instead of calling out the National Guard (who by the way are still fighting, killing, and dying in Iraq), do you think his first call should have been to the CDC? Or to his Surgeon General, and not his military Generals? These people do not walk on this earth anywhere near reality or peace. Our new enemy of the state will be Birds who may be ill and we shall be very afraid every time we sneeze and pray that our government saves us from more imaginary threats. While we are praying, the war profiteers are laughing at us on our knees as they are counting their stacks of wicked and immorally gotten gains.
Last week, George Bush got in front of the nation and said things were going to be far worse in Iraq in the next few months. Why do we let him get away with it? The other night George Bush likened Iraq with WWII. Why do we let him get away with that? Why do we allow our "leaders" to sacrifice our young to the war machine? War will stop when we as parents, educators, religious leaders, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives refuse to allow our loved ones to be taking to a war of choice and killed. I wish I had refused to allow Casey to go to Iraq. I wish I had knocked him out and taken him to Canada…or anywhere far enough away from the war monster. It is too late for us, but not for you.
Some people think it's a miracle to walk on water. I think it is a miracle to walk on the earth in peace. Thich Nhat Hahn.
If we don't learn how to do this, we as a people are, well, screwed. We have done a good job of identifying the problem of the criminally insane war in Iraq. Now how do we as a people who want to walk on our earth in peace go forward? I am committing my life and Casey's life to peace. We don't need an exit strategy from Iraq. We just need to get out. We need to realize that Iraq is not the 51st state of the Union and let them live in peace.
How do we do that? Let's walk each step away from the killing, eternal wars and walk each step in peace towards the answer. Join us in working always for peace, in peace: be peace.